Spirit Matters by Shirley Barr – The Greatness Which Might Be Theirs – Can Prejudice Change?

CFN – Prejudice is considered to be one of the main reasons why we make war on other people. We think of ways that these people are different from us and then, based on those differences, decide that they are the “other”. When we “other” people we think of ways we are better, or superior to them and then, on that basis, we may begin to make things uncomfortable for them. Have you ever done this? Has it ever been done to you?


Little things can make a big difference in a person’s life when they don’t feel accepted for who they are. This can translate to everything from feeling disliked to actually being attacked, and even, in the extreme, being killed. If we were to poll most Canadians it is most likely that they would agree that they want peace in the world.


However, when we break down some of the elements of what creates peace we discover that there are several that we, as a society, are having some issues with. One of the lesser known antidotes to war is the principle of the equality of men and women. It seems to me that there is prejudice between men and women. One of the other reasons why I think that is that there is prejudice between us is that when things are looked at on a global scale, there is still a majority of females who are not even close to equality nor do they even have a hope of ever achieving it. Why should we Canadians care about this? Does inequality affect us and how?


As long as women are prevented from attaining their highest possibilities, so long will men be unable to achieve the greatness which might be theirs.

– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

This quote has been on my mind for a very long time as I have pondered what it could possibly mean to have women attain their highest possibilities. Has any woman to date attained her highest possibility and what might it look like if she did? On the other side, what would men be achieving if they were expressing their greatness? I suspect it would look very different from what we see in so many relationships nowadays.

A woman attaining her highest possibilities might achieve a very high level of education and, for instance, be in charge of an organization that does good for part of the world. Girls and women in many parts of the world are still considered property. That is not equality. We have spoken before about the limited status of young women in Cornwall as well, where many will not get much beyond social assistance and minimum wage work.

On the other hand what is the status of men? Men are bound by unwritten and unspoken codes of belief, conduct and behaviour that are difficult to decipher. They are charged with supporting and protecting their families. What does it mean to be a man? Having raised three sons it is still a mystery to me in many ways. It appears to me that men are more limited in their roles than women. They are not allowed to step out of being stoic, being in charge, being strong, in control, knowing what to do. How many men do you know who are in touch with their feelings and can express their deepest desires, express their needs, speak about their aspirations and how they want to contribute in the world? I think a lot of this restriction is due to our heritage of military and sports cultures which are bound together so tightly it is hard to say where one end and the other begins.

Sports culture has such a strong hold on our society and it defines many people’s standard of what a man is. My great-grandfather Georges Vézina  was a goalie; in fact, the highest award for a Canadian goalie is the Vezina cup, named after him.


In his last game for the Montreal Canadiens on November 25, 1925, he was carried off the ice midway through the game because he was too weakened from tuberculosis. He had concealed his illness and passed away from it shortly afterwards. He was known as the strong silent type, admired by thousands for his endurance.


Is this still how we want men to be? Doctors and therapists will tell you how few men they see relative to the number of women who come into their care. It’s not because men are out there healthy and well either; it’s more about them being in denial that there is a problem and waiting until it is far gone. A therapist here in the community told me that when women come in for treatment, it takes them three to four sessions to begin to see themselves differently. When a man comes in for treatment it can take more like eight to ten sessions before he can even begin to look at himself from a different viewpoint.
What can we do, both sexes, to dissolve the prejudices between us? Can we stop the name-calling, the disrespect, the stereotyping and the sexism on both sides? What if women stopped expecting the significant man in their life to give them expensive gifts and instead, supported him to fulfill his dream to do something meaningful? What if a woman decided to help her beloved man to create a non-profit that added to the social good of the community?


What if little groups of women came together and created an atmosphere of trust and partnership so that they really got beyond just being girlfriends and decided to take charge of an aspect of community life that would make a difference in the lives of girls and boys?  What if small groups of men decided to become allies and helped boys to evolve beyond the macho stereotypes? Can we see the horizon of peace calling us to a whole new way of being where we become partners who create structures for the betterment of the world?

Shirley lives and works in Cornwall, Ontario and is a member of the Bahá’í Community; contact at spiritmatters9@gmail.com

1 Comment

Leave a Reply